|2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.
Both government policy and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contribute to the free practice of religion.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.
Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.
The Constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion, and declares that the authorities of the Catholic Church have "the authority to teach which principles are right and which are wrong." The Government and the Catholic Church participate in a foundation that finances Catholic schools. The Church transferred nonpastoral land to this foundation as part of the 1991 Ecclesiastical Entitles Act. There is one Muslim private school. Some governmental policies, such as a ban on divorce, reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Since 1991 churches of all kinds (not just the Roman Catholic Church) have had similar legal rights: religious organizations can own property such as buildings, and their ministers can perform marriages and other functions.
While religious instruction in Catholicism is compulsory in all state schools, the Constitution establishes the right not to receive this instruction if the student (or guardian, in the case of a minor) objects.
The state-owned University of Malta hosts the UNESCO "Future Generations Programme" and in January 2000 conducted a program for the Mediterranean region entitled "An Interreligious Educational Agenda." Cabinet ministers and regional Muslim, Jewish, and Christian clergy discussed how to include religion in education and how to teach respect for various religious faiths.
The overwhelming majority of citizens (approximately 95 percent) are Roman Catholic, and approximately 65 percent attend services regularly. While some political leaders diverge from Catholicism, most of the country's political leaders also are Roman Catholic.
Most congregants at the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; many British retirees live on Malta, and vacationers from many other nations compose the remainder of such congregations. Recently an indigenous Christian fundamentalist movement has begun to develop; it remains small and consists of a group of about 400 citizens, but it is growing rapidly. Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also have an active missionary presence. The island has one Muslim mosque and one Jewish congregation. Zen Buddhism and the Baha'i Faith also have centers on the island. Of the 2,500 Muslims, 2,000 are foreigners, 400 are naturalized Maltese, and 100 are native-born Maltese.
There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.
Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens
There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.
Section II. Societal Attitudes
The Roman Catholic Church makes its presence and its influence felt in everyday life. However, converts from Catholicism do not face legal or societal discrimination, and relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations generally are characterized by respect and cooperation.
Section III. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Whenever possible, the Embassy advocates continued observance of basic human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Both the Embassy's private discussions with government officials and its informational programs for the public consistently emphasize these points.
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